Dementia advocate, longtime volunteer earns top honours for community service
When Geraldine Hinton was seven years old, she held a circus in her backyard and donated the $7.50 in profits from the event to the Red Cross.
It’s a story Geraldine, who goes by Geri, recalls with some amusement and it demonstrates her lifelong approach to community service. Geri’s volunteer work for the Alzheimer Society of B.C. dates back 20 years, while her career in support and advocacy for people living with dementia stretches back even further. Geri, former executive director of B.C.’s Office for Seniors, is heavily involved with Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead and over the years has taken on various volunteer roles with Vancouver Island’s Beacon Community Services and St. John Ambulance. She has also acted as Vice Chancellor of Community Services for the Priory of Canada. Despite the depth of her personal and professional commitment to serving seniors and people living with dementia, it came as a surprise to Geri when she was recognized with a BC Community Achievement Award.
“I was a bit overwhelmed,” she says. “I wasn’t expecting it at all. I feel profoundly honoured because so many people in the community do so much. We never do it by ourselves.”
Geri has long been attuned to the power of community, both as a leader and caregiver. In the '90s, Geri was a caregiver to her husband Peter, who lived with Alzheimer’s disease. While Peter attended an Early Stage Support Group, Geri began experiencing a spontaneous support group of her own. She bonded with the other caregivers waiting in the lobby while their family members or partners attended the session and eventually they dubbed themselves the Lobby Support Group.
“I knew the Alzheimer Society was a resource for me,” she says. “We were on a profound journey and I felt the support from the Society right from the beginning.”
Geri is an organizing committee member of the Breakfast to Remember fundraising event in Victoria, a member of the Society’s Dementia-Friendly Communities Leadership Group for Caregivers and the Provincial Advisory Committee for the Society’s Dementia-Friendly Communities initiative. In 2016 Geri was presented with the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Clyde and Lanny Slade Memorial Leadership Award for her commitment to creating a better world for people living with dementia.
Geri maintains tight ties to Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead, a residential care home where Peter, a Second World War veteran, lived during the last year of his life. Inspired by her husband’s love for classical music, Geri has worked hard to bring music into the lodge, which now hosts classical concerts and offers Music and Memory, a program that provides residents with access to a collection of musical artists. She has also taken up the cello, a skill she endeavours to share with her community alongside a group of other enthusiastic amateur cellists.
Geri has never questioned giving back to her community, but rather, explores how she can best leverage her skills and experience to provide the most impact.
“It gives me great joy. It feeds my soul and my heart,” she says of her volunteer work. “If anyone wants to feel warmth and joy of life in their later years – choose to volunteer with people.”
To learn more about you can get involved as a volunteer, visit alzbc.org/volunteer.
Pictured above: Geri Hinton (posing with her daughter Andrea Toombs) accepts the Alzheimer Society of B.C.’s Clyde and Lanny Slade Memorial Leadership Award in 2016.